Higher Education Commission, a PHD thesis repository?

Research is indeed unchallenged field; especially in Pakistan. In a recent LinkedIn post by Thomson Reuters, State of Innovation, an Information Technology and Services firm, Pakistan has emerged as the country with the highest percentage of Highly Cited Papers compared with BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries in the last 10 years. Indeed, a proud moment for our nation.

India has sent a mars mission and China has the world’s biggest telescope. Good to know Pakistanis are beating them at least in theoretical thinking. During this time, the number of Highly Cited Papers featuring Pakistan-based authors increased tenfold, from 9 articles in 2006 to 98 in 2015. [You can download the report by clicking here].

Pakistan’s scientific productivity increased by more than 4 times, from approximately 2000 articles per year in 2006 to more than 9000 articles in 2015. Taking a look at productivity and leveraging contextual indicators, this analysis points to the fact that Pakistan can be benchmarked with emerging and dynamic countries such as those in the BRIC group.

With so much knowledge being created every second, some would say that the credit goes to the people who laid strong foundations of the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan (HECP). Absolutely forgetting that we have been living in knowledge world that has been cramped with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. I am no big fan of Dr Atta ur Rehman, former Chairman at HECP, or former Executive Director at HECP and current Vice Chancellor Lahore University of Managment Science (LUMS) who really seemed to like the news beyond a reason. There must be some applied level research with industry collaborations too.

Applied research is totally ignored in Pakistan and most of the papers are meant for impact factor if I am not wrong. The beneficiaries would be over all society with tangible results. Private higher education cannot flourish in a country with low technical commercial successes. This is inclusive of the Pakistan Vision – 2025, a perfect vision. This is what Dr Isa Daudpota had in mind when he warranted Applied Factor and was denied by a removal from HEC.

Mr Sohail Naqvi, unintentionally appreciated the Pakistani scholars with the following quote:

HEC policies resulted in an explosive growth in the worlds’s most highly cited papers from Pakistani authors

Of course Sir, it is due to well coordinated collective efforts of all Planners, Executors and the Researchers including Academia. But, the magnitude of the suffering of Pakistani people has multiplied manifold while you were working for HEC. I believe we need leaders with Flash Foresight in order to diminish the pains and suffering of the people of my motherland, not five-minute fame seekers, who have brought Pakistan to its knees.

According to Mr Naqvi,

There is no destination in this journey. Only the next stage of development. Innovation, knowledge exchange, industrial collaboration and entrepreneurship are natural corollaries to the development of a high quality research culture.

These citations are harbinger of greater things that are coming. From this point on, a vigorous positive guidance and motivation can make this nation rise to the zenith of blessing for the world to follow.

Again, it is a quantitative measure and hopefully the qualitative aspects of the research emanating from Pakistan are also trending positively, too. Wish our researchers focus on industry-led research, in particular and play significant role in improving socio-cultural environment which is pathetic at the moment. Here are few like-minded questions put forward and collectively we need to debate upon!

  1. What are the economic benefits of those published papers under the HEC in terms of enhancing the quality of lives of Pakistani people, morally or financially or spiritually or economically, except that five-minute applause? Only great nations defy the natural course of evolution of societies. So let’s start demanding overnight changes from ourselves.
  2. Do we not need to also remember that papers in the “$.com journals” originating from Pakistan have also increased by many hundred times during the same period? The next important point to ponder is that how useful that empirical evidence has been used or was the research done for the sake of research only. How many of these articles are written outside Pakistan? How many of such students are coming back to serve or contribute? As we have not been able to develop a research culture in our society yet!
  3. Is there any remote idea about the patents and processes applied or achieved through these highly cited papers and any tangible products produced by local industries available in Pakistani markets? Otherwise Higher Education Commission of Pakistan would continue to prove a PHD thesis repository. No more.
  4. Must we not consider our industries and find out solutions for improving quality and introducing new technologies through research results with special focus on S&T fields identified by the Government of Pakistan? I mean can we segregate or identify 1% or more papers out of these highly cited papers which are focused on applied research in the field of science and technology as identified in Vision Pakistan-2025 for our own country?
  5. Do we not need to decentralise Higher Education so as to create difference in the quality of the outcome. HEC should be central entity to ensure consistency of the policies and quality criterion. I believe that we need leaders with flash foresight and instant actions in order to stay competitive with the every second changing knowledge and creative world, otherwise we would be living in illusion and misleading our people.

Well done all, but a poor government cannot sustain spending on research and maintain high quality higher education. Indeed, still the journey is long away till our innovations and discoveries would be in comparison with the United States of America, Japan, Germany, or France. We have to cover an even longer way to realise Quaid’s dream of national technological development and prosperity of the nation. The fact of matter remains: we are genuinely genius. Hope someone has some kind of agile and feasible strategy to move country ahead in high technological advancements and welfare direction.

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